authors Elizabeth Richards
Interior fittings and accessories are the tools that allow designers to create the personalized storage and tidy kitchen arrangement that consumers demand. These essential elements are being integrated in more ways than ever, leaving each cabinet and drawer set up to serve a specific purpose toward the goal of a clean, clutter-free space.
“Homeowners are creating the demand for more interior storage in their new kitchens in order to stay organized, as well as create easy access to all of their cooking tools and ingredients,” says Dee Maher, dealer group manager for Kesseböhmer USA, Inc., based in Wilmington, NC. “Empty cabinets are becoming a thing of the past as we see more pullouts, spice racks and drawer organization in more projects, along with pull-down shelving for wall cabinets.”
As important as they are, these storage features can’t detract from the overall look and feel of the space, meaning manufacturers must work to create solutions that are aesthetically appealing as well as functional. Shari McPeek, advertising and public relations manager at Rev-A-Shelf, LLC in Jeffersontown, KY says, “Designers are looking for products that are functional, accessible, maximize storage and complement the overall design.”
“The modern kitchen still has to have a warm, classic feel, so finding a balance where you can add modern amenities and technology without compromising the basic functionality and the overall welcoming feeling is important,” adds Billy Peele, marketing/PR representative for Doug Mockett & Co., Inc. in Manhattan Beach, CA.
Other top trends in interior fittings and accessories include products designed to meet specific storage needs, features that add value and efficiency, technology advances that increase functionality of products and seamless integration of creative storage solutions that keep the kitchen space clean and clutter free, according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
Consumers’ lifestyles are unique and varied, so storage solutions must be easy to adapt to specific needs. Open storage, targeted features that fit personal lifestyle needs and products with a custom look and feel are top demands, manufacturers say.
“No longer are cabinets delivered with just drawers,” notes Paul Hostelley at Docking Drawer in San Ramon, CA. “Whether to create a charging station or organize kitchen utensils, each drawer is designed so it has a purpose.” Designers are looking for solutions that make adjustments easy and have a custom look and feel with matching materials, he adds.
Charging stations are expanding beyond the kitchen, says Hostelley, into drop zones, entry tables, entertainment centers and even the bathroom. This year, Docking Drawer will introduce a vertical powered organizer for use in bathroom vanities, he notes.
“Walls of storage” – tall cabinets, or a mix of tall cabinets and drawers, that fit seamlessly into design – are showing up in kitchens more often, according to McPeek. Open shelving has increased in the past year, and has people looking for design forward ways to store items that don’t look beautiful on a shelf, she says.
Karen Smith, brand communication coordinator for Blum, Inc. in Stanley, NC, believes kitchens are shifting toward integrated storage and straight lines. “Homeowners are wanting to personalize their spaces to fit their specific needs and adding more drawers and rollouts to their base cabinets,” she maintains.
Maher points out that, as people remodel their kitchens, they are prioritizing better, more functional storage. “A recent RICKI study showed that 37% of homeowners who remodeled their kitchen last year wished that they had spent more money on the project,” Maher says.
This tendency toward making storage a priority also means that products that make customization easy are important, she adds.
Not only are targeted storage solutions in high demand, but trends also lean toward creating easy access to everything inside the cabinets and drawers.
Daryl Nauman, account manager – kitchen and bath for the Archdale, NC-based Häfele America Co., says there’s been more focus on accessing upper cabinet storage. “Most kitchens still have fewer upper cabinets than in years past due to open shelving, open floor plans and more windows. This means the upper cabinets that remain need to offer more function and storage than ever before,” he states. “This trend seems to have accelerated in the last year, making products like our iMOVE Pull Down Unit – which makes upper cabinet storage easily reachable – even more vital for projects.”
“Today’s kitchen designers are going for a cleaner and simple look, yet homeowners have more kitchen devices than ever before that need to be easily accessible,” Nauman adds. “Because of this, we’re seeing creative use of larger appliance garages like our Milano line, deep drawers for storage as well as more sliding doors that sleekly conceal entire, long runs of cabinets”
Jan Fitzpatrick, customer & market relations manager at Kernersville, NC-based Grass America Inc., agrees that ease of access is important and has contributed to the demand for full-extension and full-access drawers. “I think designers are looking for hardware that provides the most access to the interior of a drawer or cabinet storage space,” she says. “It is important to be able to see the full contents of your drawer and not have any extension loss.”
“With every style trend, be it contemporary, transitional or farmhouse, homeowners are looking for cabinets that offer more drawers and rollouts, which in itself illustrates the desire for efficiency and convenience,” says Smith. “Full-extension drawers in base cabinets bring even the back corners of the cabinet out into full view, allowing easy access to storage items. Not only is this a more ergonomic option, it also streamlines the meal-making process.”
McPeek adds that accessories can meet the desire for daily tasks to be as easy and enjoyable as possible. Effective use of space creates efficiency, but creative product placement to increase access, such as door-mounting products, can also make a big difference. Convenience is built into accessories, McPeek adds. “Pulling an item out keeps one from kneeling or bending, making it more convenient,” she notes. So, too, does using easily adjustable accessories that can adapt to life changes.
Function & Style
While function is the most important aspect of interior fittings and accessories, the visual appeal cannot be overlooked. “A minimalist approach to design is key to minimize the footprint and not to detract from the overall design aesthetic,” says Peele. “Bold, striking contrasts can really liven up the space. Those all-white kitchens of previous years can freshen up by adding matte black hardware accents to explore the strong dichotomy of black and white,” he states.
“Selecting interior storage options that combine reliability and usability with stunning aesthetics are now a must,” Nauman further notes. “The trends we’re seeing are to make the inside of cabinets just as warmly styled as the exterior – so these products absolutely fit.”
Maher sees trends in finish and color leaning toward the industrial look, with a strong trend toward anthracite gray for interior storage. “This gray is everywhere in Europe, as I saw in Italy last year, and will coordinate with the darker cabinet interiors that we’re seeing along with the popularity of gray as an overall color in cabinetry, countertops and furnishings,” she points out.
Specific features and aesthetic demands for accessories and interior fittings are highly personal, but common threads include a demand for practical value to consumers’ lifestyles, and products that integrate well into the look and feel of the overall design.
“People are willing to spend more on items they see as ‘lifestyle products,’ not just a commodity,” says McPeek. “For example, a blind corner like our 499 is a product, of course, but when added to a cabinet, it creates a life benefit. It maximizes storage space, makes getting the items from the space easier, adjusts with your needs over time and is a selling point if the home is ever put on the market.”
When it comes to visual considerations, McPeek believes, “Homeowners want items that look nice and add to the overall design and feel of the space. As people spend more and more time in the kitchen, they are wanting to keep the experience pleasant and inviting for themselves and guests versus kitchens of the past that were seen as a place where chores were carried out.”
“It seems that today’s consumer will spend more on the features that they feel are important to them,” Fitzpatrick adds. Younger buyers like nice items, she notes, which means they’re spending more time researching and understanding more about the items they choose for their cabinetry.
“Customers are willing to spend more on solutions that declutter countertops and provide flexible organization solutions,” says Hostelley. “High-quality materials and finishes are a must,” he adds.
“Consumers are unwilling to spend more on kitchen storage options that may only yield incremental conveniences,” warns Nauman. “Instead, they’re looking for design-altering, higher-capacity storage options that change the way these spaces flow, form and function.” He adds that homeowners are finding savings through items that can be added later, such as in-drawer storage solutions, spice racks and base cabinet cleaning caddies.
While homeowners are often willing to spend more on big-ticket items in the kitchen like countertops, cabinetry and appliances, Smith notes, “Remodeling regret is most often found in the kitchen where homeowners are choosing lesser quality products and deprioritizing storage. Educating consumers on the value of interior cabinet hardware can combat this regret, ensuring they understand the longevity of the product as well as the function, like soft-closing cabinets.”
Technology is an important consideration for any category, and for interior fittings and accessories, trends are significantly impacted by technological considerations in two ways.
First there’s the demand for a place to keep various devices charged and ready to use, without the chaotic clutter of having them all over the counter. Hostelley says that, as people purchase the latest technology, demand grows for charging solutions with USB-C with power delivery.
Nauman agrees: “Consumers these days have several electronic devices that need to be charged throughout the day. Products such as the Docking Drawer Blade, available from Häfele, keep these thirsty devices charged while reducing visible clutter.”
“Technology plays an important role in making our homes smarter, but a big part of the challenge is taking basic, existing technology and making it more seamless with our furniture. Even simple power solutions can be limiting,” Peele points out. Mockett has addressed this challenge with a unique brand of pop-up power grommets, PCS103, for kitchen countertops and islands that are water-tight and UL listed for wet areas, he says. “Don’t limit your cook space to designated power access points from wall plates – put power where you need it and access it when you want it,” Peele adds.
The other aspect of technology that factors into design trends is in making products more functional and easier to use. “Technology does play a role now and most likely will play a greater role in the future,” says Fitzpatrick. “Touch-to-open drawer systems have a place in every home. They are smart, convenient and functional. And, if you watch the design trends with the more modern cabinetry look, these can play a big role as handle-free drawers are becoming more popular.”
Soft-closing doors and drawers are now an expectation of consumers, she adds. “Soft-close hinges were the focus for a long time, but soft-close drawers have taken over, rather quietly, I have to say.”
McPeek adds, “Technology is always a part of an accessories design and can be seen in the various slides like soft-close, tip-on and electric open to how products mount within a cabinet.”
Smith agrees that technology plays a large role in trends for interior cabinet fittings. “With 87% of Americans wanting to age in place, it’s important to think about how cabinets will function as you age. Blum tests products with an AGE EXPLORER suit that simulates pregnancy, disabilities and the effects of aging to ensure our hardware is usable in all of life’s stages. With this in mind, motorized opening of cabinets is important for those who have arthritic hands and can no longer grab knobs and pulls with their hands. A simple press on the front of the cabinet can bring the drawer out, allowing access to storage items.” ▪